If you are one of the few people who did not know or participate in Amazon Prime Day in October, please allow me to usher you into the holiday season. While Amazon put Prime Day on hold due to COVID, it ended up being a fitting beginning to holiday shopping. Several stats are showing consumers are shopping earlier and online this year. According to a report in Think With Google, 83 percent of shoppers say the pandemic altered their shopping habits. Are you ready?
Small businesses need to be prepared for a non-traditional holiday shopping season this year if not forever more.
The pandemic, worries about shipping delays and general uneasiness about the economy are combining to make consumers shop earlier and possibly at places they would otherwise overlook. eMarketer has its online retail sales forecast for this year growing by 18% to $710 billion.
This means small businesses that have a solid online presence with a community following are going to outperform their non tech savvy competitors. Believe it or not, nearly half of all small businesses don’t have a website!
To help small business retailers prepare for holiday shopping, we’ve created a to-do list so you can be prepared to help your clients check off their shopping lists. Don’t forget your local SBDC Consultant is ready to connect with you for no-cost consultation along the way!
Ask us. We can help.
- Build and test your website.
- Check your website and transaction security.
- Review or create your marketing and sales strategy.
- Create a marketing plan.
#1. Build and test your website.
One of the first things you should do is shore up your website (or build one if you don’t have one!) Tip: view our video, Simple Web Design for Small Businesses. You need to be sure you have fresh, timely content, your products/services are up to date and your cart is functioning properly. Go onto your site and buy something. Go through the entire process and experience what the customer does. If it is a lousy experience for you, well, your prospect will most likely abandon their online cart.
#2. Check your transaction security.
Check your security throughout the transaction. Your website should be secure and not generate errors or warnings at any part of the buying experience. Test your site in multiple browsers and watch for warnings. A quick test is to simply look at your web address in the browser and see if it begins with HTTP: or HTTPS: If you are missing the “S” you are not secure. You also need to check your payment systems. Make sure they are secure, utilize dual authentication for internal access and deposit sales to a bank account you monitor regularly. If you don’t have deposit/withdrawal alerts on this account, now would be a good time to set that up. Point-of-Sale represents the highest risk for cyberattack in small business.
#3. Review or create marketing and sales strategies.
Consider changing your marketing and sales strategies to accommodate the new “COVID-economy.” Consumers are going to be bargain hunting and likely more practical in their purchases. If you haven’t considered free shipping or gift wrapping in the past, this might be a good year to add those perks. At a minimum you should have a “shop-online-pick-up-at-store” option. This might be the year you sell on the big platforms like Amazon or eBay. Consider offering your goods in more affordable packages or find complementing items as add-ons that help differentiate yourself from the crowd. Selling a football jersey is easy and everyone does it but, selling a jersey with a “free” hat makes you different and adds value to the sale.
#4. Create and Implement your Marketing Plan.
Once you have a solid site, checked your security, and have figured out how to make yourself stand out in the crowd, build a comprehensive marketing plan to put it all into action. You should take time to optimize your site to capture as much search traffic as possible. Then you want to set up an email campaign that will regularly reach out to your customer base throughout the shopping season. Finally, you want to choose the right social media platforms and generate some visual content to post that will not only appeal to your followers but get them to share with others.
#5. Connect with the South Carolina SBDC.
We realize some of this is a tall order with a short turn-around but, if you complete this list of to-do’s, you will be off to a good start. If you need help, the SC SBDC is here to lend a hand. We have specialists that can help with websites and digital marketing as well as cybersecurity. Check out our upcoming event “Marketing Your Business Online” and consider making a marketing splash to take advantage of Shop Small Saturday on November 28th. See you out there on the web this Christmas!
About the Author: Earl Gregorich is the Area Manager for Greenville County and has been providing business consultation for more than 20 years. Earl joined the SC SBDC Network as a Certified Business Advisor from Ohio. He has a degree in Organizational Leadership and currently runs his own internet-based company. He is an entrepreneur, a US Air Force veteran, and a valuable asset to the SBDC team and to the hundreds of entrepreneurs he assists every year.